Gunmen storm Kabul TV station in ongoing attack: officials

 07 Nov 2017 - 11:14

Gunmen storm Kabul TV station in ongoing attack: officials
File Photo: AFP.

AFP

Kabul: Gunmen stormed a television station in Kabul on Tuesday killing at least one person in an ongoing attack, officials said, in the latest deadly assault targeting Afghan journalists.

The militants were firing rocket propelled grenades at heavily armed security forces surrounding Shamshad TV, an AFP photographer said, as some staff remained trapped inside the building. 

Security forces were trying to blast their way through a wall of the compound in order to enter the Pashto-language broadcaster, which had gone off the air and was transmitting only a holding image. 

"I saw three attackers on security cameras entering the TV station building. They first shot the guard and then entered the building. They started throwing grenades and firing," Shamshad TV reporter Faisal Zaland, who escaped through a back door, told AFP.

"Many of my colleagues are still in the building," he added.

An AFP photographer saw security forces helping two employees escape the compound. 

Gunshots could be heard inside the building every few minutes as more and more security forces swarmed the area.

"A group of armed men have entered the building and security forces are fighting them," Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid told AFP. 

"The security forces have been able to rescue a large number of Shamshad TV staff. Initial information on casualties shows at least one guard has lost his life."

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said as many as three attackers were involved in the assault.

"The security forces have been able to bring one down and the operation is ongoing," Danish told AFP, adding that "most" staff have been rescued.

- Taliban not involved -

There was no immediate claim of responsibility in the attack, but in a Twitter statement the Taliban swiftly denied it was involved. 

Kabul has been rocked by a series of deadly attacks in recent weeks as the Taliban and Islamic State insurgents step up offensives against security installations and mosques.

Violence against Afghan journalists surged in the first half of 2017, a media watchdog said in July.

Last year the country suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists, according to AJSC, with at least 13 media workers killed -- 10 by the Taliban. That made it the second most dangerous place for reporters in the world after Syria.

In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for "spreading propaganda" against them.

It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, and spotlighted the dangers faced by media workers in Afghanistan as the security situation worsens.

Security in Kabul has been ramped up since a May 31 truck bomb exploded on the edge of the so-called "Green Zone", killing around 150 people and wounding 400 others.

That attack also caused extensive damage to 1TV, a private news channel located close to the bombing site. In an act of defiance, the news channel managed to resume operations within a few hours.

Special truck scanners, barriers and permanent and mobile checkpoints have been rolled out across the city since the May bombing.

But a suicide bomber struck again in Kabul's heavily fortified diplomatic quarter last week, killing at least five people, showing that militants can still hit the heart of the city despite tighter security.